The Landscape of Literature in ‘The Overstory’

Julie Borden
The Shortform
Published in
1 min readJun 10, 2024

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Photo by David Kennedy on Unsplash

Richard Powers weaves literary allusions into pivotal scenes of this novel.

Neelay sits in the high branches of an oak tree and dreads going home to face his parents, seeing the shame in their eyes when they learn he has talked back to a teacher. Almost anything would be preferable to that.

His class has been reading A Separate Peace, and it comes to his mind:

“He makes room on the oak’s… branch for the two boys from ‘A Separate Peace.’ He watches… their… games of love and war in their tree above the river… An idea flashes through him, a glimpse of an easy peace.”

Life-changing decisions are rarely clear cut, and the ambiguity can be haunting, something Neelay realizes afterward. “There will be years to wonder whether the branches jerked.” Or whether this defining moment was somehow his own doing.

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Julie Borden
The Shortform

Social worker, therapist, reader, writer, head-in-the-clouds dreamer, awed by most everything. (She/her) Reach me at JulieBordenLCSW@gmail.com.